Tag Archives: female

The F-word and Female Responsibility

There was an ‘incident’ that happened to me recently which made me furious.

Have you ever heard about those stories about groping on Japanese subways? I became aware of this when I was 18 and travelling to Japan by myself for the first time. I had heard that men would often grope Japanese women on trains because the women did not make a scene out of embarrassment. The travel logs never said that western women were groped because they had a tendency to yell at the groper, causing mortal shame for the groping men.

anti-groping

That was when I made up my mind to be that vocal woman. Fortunately, I never had a chance to practice my scream on the Japanese train and I soon forgot all about the risk of being groped. That is, I forgot until a ten year old Indian boy grabbed my boob four years later.

The mere shock made me stop in my tracks, speechless. I was walking with a friend in Colaba, Mumbai, and it wasn’t a crowded street. The Jr. groper had been walking next to us and asking if we would marry him. Then, he briefly cupped my breast, and we both stopped. There was a strange moment where time slowed down. He looked at me expectantly, to see the shock on my face. It was there alright. He had a big grin on his face when I snapped out of it and cuffed him on the side of the head. He took off running as I yelled after him.

I didn’t think it was a big deal. I still don’t. At least he hung around to receive the punishment he expected. It wasn’t very serious, but I’ll tell you what has prompted me to write this blog.

Just last week, while waiting for the bus in Vancouver, I felt something touch my bum. I took my earbuds out, and turned to see a man of about sixty walking past me wearing a sweatsuit and baseball cap. He had shoulder length and scraggly blond hair.
He smiled at me.
This time I didn’t hesitate.
I yelled at him, “What the fuck do you think you’re doing? You can’t just touch my butt and walk away like it’s okay!”
I caught up to him.
He picked up his pace, and didn’t meet my eyes but turned and said, “Don’t worry about it baby, I’m an international rock star”.
“It doesn’t matter who the fuck you are. You violated me.” I yelled, so that people across the street could hear.
He started to run away, and I chased after him. I caught up and tried to kick him in the butt, but missed because I was wearing high heels.

I will take this opportunity to mention to the assholes who might be reading this, that I was not wearing slutty clothes (and if I was, it wouldn’t mean that I had less right to be angry).

I continued to yell after him as he ran away. A man who saw the whole thing told me that I should file a police report.
I couldn’t be bothered with that. What was that going to do anyway? I didn’t know who he was and he looked like a generic man who hung around the Gastown pub district at night.

I was fuming and felt violated, but was happy that I had had the presence of mind to yell and chase after the guy. I was glad he got scared and ran away from me…
I wished I hadn’t missed the kick to the ass.

My bus didn’t come either.

So, pissed off and riled up I went back to the pub to wait with my friends for the next bus that would come in an hour. After my unexpected re-entrance and grand proclamation that I had just chased a groper down the street and that my bus didn’t come, my friends and I got into a discussion about female blame and responsibility.

Basically, even though we are taught that rape, groping, and verbal sexual abuse is wrong and we should fight out against it, many women I know have been raised to believe that they have some kind of responsibility for the male attention they receive. Whether this attention is wanted or unwanted, there is something ingrained into society that says that men only react to female sexuality.

For a less-extreme example than rape, take a situation where a girl finds out that a boy she has been friendly with has a crush on her. If this attention is unwanted, I know that the first question that will come up for her and her friends will be “what did I do that made him get a crush on me?”

The problem here is the belief that a woman possesses a dangerous power to seduce, and if she doesn’t control it carefully then men will end up falling for her. It’s something we call “leading him on”.

I know that whenever this has happened to me, I feel as if I can change the way I behave around men to avoid any sort of awkwardness. I immediately start to evaluate and mediate all my male relationships to ensure they stay friendly.

For the more extreme example of rape, let’s think of all the times when a woman has been accused of “deserving it” because of her past sexual history, the way she dressed, what neighbourhood and what time, or how much she had to drink. Thankfully a new dialogue has risen out of some unfortunately extreme cases that got a lot of publicity. The new idea discounts all aspects of female responsibility when a woman falls victim to sexual abuse.

For the people who are aware that women are not responsible for the abuses visited on them by men, there is a new kind of responsibility we must adopt. This is not only the responsibility to educate other women, but the need to educate men. It might be hard to tell the creepy man who is gesturing at you on the bus that it is inappropriate and makes you feel violated, but now you know that it’s not your fault you should think of the next girl or woman he will do this to.

Every time you let something slide (because maybe he’s not actually said anything, or hasn’t touched you, or you’re getting off at the next stop anyway), you’re actually sending a message that it’s okay.
My advice? Use your voice. If you’re in public, tell it to them. If you’re not in public, yell it to the world in some other way.

Also, don’t listen to people who call you a feminist like it’s a bad thing. It means you believe in your rights and will defend them.

My question for you:

Why has Feminism become a dirty word?

Edit: I  just discovered this website, iHollaback! which campaigns against street harassment. There is a space to read and share other stories about this issue.

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Bad Girl

The following short story is based on a reality that many teen girls I know have dealt with.Stealing

Ah, the rush of adrenaline running through her veins!

She swaggers through the aisles of the drugstore next to her high school in between exams with a bag of books, taking handfuls of lipgloss off the shelf and dropping them silently between the binders marked “Science 8” and “English 8”.

She doesn’t even look at the colours but moves on to the next section and grabs a compact powder and tosses it in among the rest.

Her friends follow behind her at a distance, snickering and blocking the view of the oblivious staff behind the makeup counter.

Georgia had developed a cockiness with her stealing since she started going to the mall with her friends on their lunch breaks and coming back to class with a haul of stolen goods. “It isn’t that bad because it’s not like I’m taking something personal. Corporations can afford the loss,” she thought as she pulled  her jeans over 6 new thongs in the Winners changing room.

She digs in the pockets of a pair of khakis, still on the hanger, and finds one more thong with the tag on it. She takes the tag of and puts the thong in her pocket. She walks out and gives the pants and the plastic sign that says, “1 item” to the change room attendant.

Back at home after her final exam, Georgia locks herself in her room with a roll of toilet paper and tries on all the new shades of lipgloss she bought. Pink, Mauve, Purple, Brown, Gold. There is a rainbow pile of toilet paper kisses on the floor when she is finished.

She takes a small suitcase out from under her bed and opens it. There is a mountain of makeup inside and Georgia dumps the ugly colours inside of it.

She takes off her pants and thongs and shoves 7 new pairs of underwear into her overflowing underwear drawer.

She lies down on her bed and falls asleep with the rest of her clothes on. She dreams about getting into Hogwarts and turning down Harry Potter when he asks her out on a date until she wakes up at 1 p.m. the next day.

~

Georgia is running. Running as fast as she can in a pair of pink flip flop sandals. She’s at the mall again and her best friend Danielle watches her dodge a mother with a stroller. Danielle has been stuck with an oversized shopping bag full of clothes. She pulls out her cellphone and calls her mom.

“Hey mom, Georgia and I are finished. Can you come pick me up?”

Georgia curses her luck as she runs out the front doors only to find she’s still being pursued by the most athletic security guard she’s ever seen.

A portly security guard sits across from Georgia in an underground parking lot office.

“If you had run away from me, I wouldn’t have bothered!”

She is still catching her breath when the guard who chased her comes out from behind the plexiglass booth to inform her that the police have been called.

“I would have just called your parents. Now you’ve resisted arrest and you’ll get a criminal record. I hope you weren’t planning on leaving the country anytime soon.”

Georgia’s throat constricts until it aches. She fights back tears as she thinks about her mother and stepfather shaking their heads in disappointment while they get on a flight to Mexico, leaving her behind.

The portly security guard asks, “Are you sure you can’t reach your parents?”

“They’re both working,” Georgia chokes back.

The guard who chased her, softens a little at the sound of her voice.

“What does your father do?”

“He actually works in the towers next door. He’s a security guard there.”

The portly security guard leans forward.

“Why don’t we just try calling his cell. If he picks up and can come down here we’ll call off the police.”

~

A female security guard enters the room with a rough looking young man.

“Fake bills, we’re going to do a test,” she barks and they pass through to the back room.

Georgia’s father turns back to look at his daughter, sitting in her pink flip flops and matching pink cheeks.

The athletic guard breaks the silence.

“I’m actually pretty impressed. She ran really well despite her shoes. Nearly knocked over a woman and her stroller, but I run triathlons and she kept ahead of me for quite some time before she gave up in the parking lot.”

He leans against the security counter, smiling at her father.

“You might want to put her in track and field. Sports are supposed to be a good way to help troubled teens,” he adds.

Her father turns to the guard and says, “only just a teenager at 14, but that’s not a bad idea… is it Georgia? You could use some exercise to get fit for modelling.”

Georgia looks up at her father and the fit security guard.

“I’m not troubled, and you know I don’t want to model anymore… I’m too short.”

She looks at the security guards, they both smile at her, “Fit and Fat,” she thinks. She smiles back for the first time, her nerves calmed.

Georgia and her father say good bye outside his office building.

“I guess your mom and I won’t have to punish you. Banned from the mall for 5 years and it seems like those guys taught you a lesson before I got there.” He smiles at Georgia and laughs.

“Thanks Dad. I’ll tell mom when I get home then you can talk about it.”

“Love you Georgia.”

“Love you Dad,” and Georgia walks away to the bus station.

~

Three weeks later, Georgia climbs out of her father’s car at the high school track field. A small group of teens and two coaches greet her with smiles, and Georgia recognizes a girl from her class.

The girl comes up to Georgia.

“Hey, how come you’re starting track?”

Georgia takes a sip from her water bottle and grimaces.

“What’s wrong?” asks the girl.

“Nothing. I just mixed some vodka with my water and it tastes terrible. I was afraid I would get tired so I thought this would loosen me up a bit.”

The girl laughs, then goes serious.

“You’re joking right?”

Georgia laughs, “Yes, of course I’m joking. No, I put advil in my water. Now I know why they only have it pill form.”

“So how come you’re joining track halfway through the season?”

“Got caught stealing and the security guard said I was so fast I should do the 100 meter sprint. So here I am.”

Georgia pours out her water into the grass.

“Mind if I share your water today? I can’t drink this,” Georgia asks.

The girl stammers, “sure, but-”

“Thanks.” Georgia picks up her bag and walks toward the coaches who are calling for them to gather around. The swagger is back in her step.